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Oklahoma, Texas to make SEC softball even more great

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Oklahoma players celebrate with the trophy after defeating Texas in the NCAA Women's College World Series Softball Final on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Oklahoma City.  (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma players celebrate with the trophy after defeating Texas in the NCAA Women’s College World Series Softball Final on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

PA

Oklahoma and Texas — the two finalists in the Women’s College World Series — are set to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025 and will likely make the central conference even more formidable.

Oklahoma is coming off its fifth national title in the last nine World Series under coach Patty Gasso, but the current SEC has battled the Sooners every step of the way. Florida won national titles in 2014 and 2015 and was a runner-up in 2011 and 2017. Alabama won the championship in 2012 and was a runner-up in 2014. Auburn was a runner-up in 2016. Tennessee was a runner-up in 2013 .

Florida was the only current SEC team to qualify for the World Series this year, but all 12 conference teams reached the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re obviously in a very proud league,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “It’s a league of great coaches, great facilities, great sporting directors, great programs, great programs steeped in tradition.”

There will be two more top-notch programs with Oklahoma and an emerging program from Texas under coach Mike White. The Longhorns posted their best result this season, and White thinks it’s just the beginning. He said seniors such as Mary Iakopo, Janae Jefferson and Hailey Dolcini left the program at a good start.

“That’s what all those seniors can say they did – they left the shirt in a better place,” he said. “We have set all kinds of new records and standards for our program. We are not the Oklahoma standard. I understand. But this program is on the rise. That’s what we want.

Texas hadn’t made the World Series since 2013. Now the Longhorns look set for the SEC.

“It was a very tough job building this thing from where we were,” said White, who took over in 2019. “We were in a pretty tough spot.”

Oklahoma also has a bright future and should be in a good position to make the move. NFCA first-team All-Americans Tiare Jennings and Jayda Coleman are sophomores, and pitcher Jordy Bahl was NFCA Rookie of the Year.

“One thing about Sooner softball, and I’ve seen it year after year, is they just keep getting better,” Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo said. “I don’t know what will happen next year, but I know they could be (in contention) for the best team too, and for years to come.”

Both programs will also bring a long-standing border rivalry to the SEC that can rival any existing in the league. Oklahoma and Texas have been one-sided the past few years, but Oklahoma won 38 straight games to start this season before losing to Texas, and now they’ve met for a national title.

Now Texas is calling it a rivalry again.

“I think in this softball program, we haven’t beaten them in years, and finally getting that win — okay — you can go back to calling it that and keep competing with them,” Dolcini said.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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